Bloemfontein - You know you’re getting close to a Super 14 grudge match when the words “physical”, “outmuscle” and forward “war” start getting bandied about.
But come next Friday night, the Cheetahs are preparing themselves to get rough and physical – within the laws, of course – when they face the defending Super 14 champs, the Bulls in their opening match in Bloemfontein on February 12.
Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské is a confident man as he starts to wind down his squad’s preparations for the big match, and is hopeful that a few tweaks to the game plan can help change a seesaw battle that the Bulls have won more than they lost.
In the majority of big matches between the two sides, the Cheetahs have started badly, but have enough heart to rally back in the latter stages of the game. This is something that Drotské desperately wants to change.
“Look, we aren’t scared of the Bulls,” he said, “We know we can beat them and we believe we can beat them.
“In last year’s Currie Cup final, we gave them three tries on a platter, and then had 70 percent possession for the rest of the game. We know we can beat them. With that sort of possession we should have beat them.”
Drotské has been heartened by his side’s defence in the pre-season outings, where they didn’t concede a try, but he does admit that it will be a different situation against the Bulls.
“We didn’t see their game against the Lions, but we know what to expect from the Bulls. Its no secret how they play, they haven’t changed their game plan significantly,” Drotské says.
“They like to use tactical kicks and their forwards to get them momentum. We know they will be physical. But in knowing that we will have to be as physical and we will have to be better than them when it comes dominating up front. We’ve got to dominate there to win the game.”
With the tactical kicking game in mind, Drotské is still debating which of his two fullbacks to use. Hennie Daniller and Springbok Riaan Viljoen, both of whom have made strong impressions in the pre-season games.
“Hennie and Riaan are so close at the moment, that there is little to choose between them. Hennie might be better under the high ball, but Riaan gives that something extra in being able to slot penalties from his own 10 metre line. It will be a difficult choice for us,” Drotske admits.
Either way, with more depth and the confidence from the Currie Cup, the Bulls will travel to Bloemfontein next week knowing they will have a fight on their hands.